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Northrop Grumman Opens New Hypersonic Propulsion Facility in Maryland

Maryland, (Qnnflash) Northrop Grumman has unveiled its new hypersonic propulsion factory, the “Hypersonic Capability Center,” in Elkton, Maryland, on August 3. The facility, spanning 60,000 square feet, will focus on manufacturing scramjet engines for the Air Force’s Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), as well as ramjets, warheads, and other components for future hypersonic systems.

Although the current workforce at the facility comprises just over 50 people engaged in digital and production work, Northrop has designed the center to be “rapidly expandable” and adaptable to accommodate other projects, aiming to build hypersonic elements at scale.

Northrop plays a crucial role in the development of HACM, providing the air-breathing scramjet propulsion system and warheads to Raytheon, the prime contractor for the weapon. The HACM project gained momentum after the AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) encountered testing challenges, making HACM a more attractive option due to its smaller size and longer range. The HACM’s air-breathing scramjet propulsion enables it to be carried by various aircraft, from fighters to large bombers like the B-52.

The development of HACM is based on the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program, a collaboration between the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as the joint program SCIFiRE with Australia. Initial flight tests for HACM are planned to take place in Australia.

Chris Haynes, Northrop’s director of business development for missiles, emphasized the importance of the Hypersonic Capability Center, which consolidates the company’s hypersonic expertise from other facilities in New York and Florida. He highlighted the need to design future weapons with manufacturing in mind to achieve affordability while delivering reliable and scalable weapons.

The facility marks a significant step in hypersonic propulsion manufacturing, as Haynes noted that such a capability did not previously exist at scale in the industry. Northrop aims to expand its involvement in hypersonic programs and expects an increase in both the number of programs and deliverables for the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

In addition to the HACM project, Northrop will also produce hypersonic engines for future air-breathing systems, although further details were not provided. The company will also manufacture the third stage rocket motor for the Navy’s Standard Missile.

Beyond the technological advancements, Northrop is actively engaging with local educational institutions to build a skilled workforce within the community, ensuring a workforce of the future. The facility’s proximity to the University of Delaware in Newark provides opportunities for collaboration and talent development.

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